Nevadans with chronic health conditions wait for COVID-19 vaccine eligibility

Coronavirus

LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Even as more and more Nevadans get vaccinated, those who are not eligible yet feel left in the dark. That includes people with chronic health conditions.

According to the state’s vaccination playbook, under the general population lane, Nevadans ages 16 to 64 with underlying health conditions are next in line for the vaccine. But with so many vaccination appointments available, they want the green light now. 

That includes 32-year-old Las Vegan Samantha Russell.

“We have been living in intense and constant stress,” she said.

Russell has been diagnosed with cancer three times since 2016. The disease, combined with treatment, has taken its toll on her immune system — and that makes her even more worried about the coronavirus.

“It does make people like me anxious,” Russell said. “My personal health situation colliding with this pandemic has been really scary.”

Experts say the best protection against the virus is the COVID-19 vaccine. But according to the state’s vaccination playbook, Russell is not eligible yet.

“It is hard to feel like immunocompromised people or people with disabilities, people like me, are being prioritized,” she said. “It’s frustrating when there are appointments available.”

And there are a lot of time slots open. As of Tuesday night, there were several appointments still available for this week at Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) vaccination sites, including Cashman Center and the Las Vegas Convention Center. 

The same can be said for UNLV clinics.

“We have a lot of capacity,” said Dr. Michael Gardner, president and CEO of UNLV Medicine and vice dean of clinical affairs and strategy for the UNLV School of Medicine.

Gardner runs the university’s COVID-19 vaccination clinics and says they are able to administer around 2,000 doses a day. But for the past few days, they have not been doing that, since fewer people are signing up.

“We’re doing maybe a little bit more than half of what we could be doing,” the doctor shared. “We’re afraid that’ll be the case until we get some expansion of the lanes that we’re allowed to vaccinate.”

Gardner says he would like to see Nevadans with chronic conditions added to the mix, as well as Nevadans ages 55 and older and frontline casino/hospitality workers.

Russell hopes she becomes eligible soon. She says she cannot wait to get the vaccine.

“Just to know that we have that extra layer of protection will be the biggest weight lifted off of our shoulders,” Russell said.

8 News Now reached out the State’s Health Response team, as well as SNHD, to ask when those with underlying conditions could expect to become eligible for the vaccine. As of Tuesday night, 8 News Now did not receive a response.

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